Seeing the best in life's challenges

If You Must Forecast, Forecast Often

on June 18, 2012

OR:  Prophecy vs. Potentials

When I worked in the Research Department of a large real estate investment firm, we had to do a lot of forecasting — annual increases in rental rates, the Consumer Price Index, vacancy rates, measures of economic growth.  We knew the truth of that statement:  If you must forecast, forecast often. 

It’s the same situation any time you are looking into the future.  You have to take all the data you have, make your best guestimate of what is likely to happen, and then settle on a prediction.  Even if you have a sophisticated computer model, the old saying holds true: Garbage In, Garbage Out.  Your results are only as good as your data.  In the real world, that data changes, so you have to keep updating your forecast if you want to be as accurate as possible.

The same holds true for forecasting the weather.  When I was taking meteorology classes in the early 80s, the models only attempted to go out five days.  Now they forecast much further into the future.  But still, if you are depending on a weather forecast, not only do you check it the day before, if you are like me, you watch the real-time satellite images to see what’s headed your way. 

If we’re talking about human behavior, the same guidelines hold true.  You might have a really good idea of how your best friend will react to bad news, based on her personality and her belief system.  But if you show up to tell her this bad news, and realize she is drunk, or just had a really hard day at the office, or just found out her dad died, well, that new information will change what is likely to happen when you tell her, IF you still decide to share whatever bad news you have.

All that makes sense, right?

So now I want to ask you this:  If a prediction about the future of the human race were made, say 2000 years ago, then it was probably based on the most likely potentials at the time, right?  If that potential outcome was not optimal, and came with warnings and suggestions on how to avoid the outcome, that would make sense, right?  Whoever was wise and sophisticated enough to make that kind of prediction, would be basing the forecast on the best available data at the time.

A lot can change in 2000 years.  A lot can change in 100, 50, even 10 years.  So, you wouldn’t consider an “old” forecast to be inevitable, right?

Then why, please explain to me, do people still cling to the prophecies of Armageddon and the End of the World with such hopelessness?  As if there is nothing we can do to change the potentials? 

The Soviet Union is no longer — the Bear is gone.  The Berlin Wall fell.  The world didn’t end at the Millenium.  It’s not going to end in 2012. 

If you watch the news, they will try to convince you that the world is still all about doom and gloom.  Old habits die hard.  Plus, fear is a powerful tool. 

Step back and think about how the world has changed over the past 50 years.  It is not the same place.  Collectively, we have made the world a better place.   That should make us hopeful, but not complacent.

Never underestimate the power of even the smallest of gestures to make a difference.  Watch the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  George Bailey had no idea of the impact he made.  One smile, one kind gesture, one act of charity, multiplied by thousands or millions of people will have exponential positive effects. 

We have already changed the potentials.  Why stop now?

One response to “If You Must Forecast, Forecast Often

  1. Donald Eastburn says:

    I loved the part about the friend being drunk. Other than that I would like to ask, just what was your point? What if the 2000 year old predictions are correct? You said yourself, we are better today at predicting long range weather than we were before. Well what if our 2000 year old fore fathers we very good at predicting the future? What if gloom and doom is right on? Look I don’t believe they are right, the writings are too general to truely be interpreted accurately today. But I just don’t know that they are wrong, nor do I truely know just what the Mayans were trying to tell us, or the Hopi Indians, or any of the old timers, but I do know they went to a lot of trouble to warn us about something. My point is, perhaps we shouldn’t let the gloom and doom rule our life, but I do believe we should look to see just what all those wise acufuture tellers were trying to tell us. I don’t think we should be so quick to discount their predictions and assume we are better than they are at this future prediction game.

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